How To Build a Portfolio Without Giving Your Voice Away For Free

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Voice Acting PortfolioGetting started in voice overs?

Not sure how to get experience or build a portfolio of voice over work?

There are many practical and rewarding ways to go about gaining experience and prospective clients.

Discover some here at!

Ever wondered how you could go about building up your voice over portfolio in a safe and noble manner?

Consider volunteering!  It’s a great way to build your voice acting portfolio.

When I had a few moments, I got thinking about ways that you could create a respectable voice over portfolio without undercutting for work, or worse, giving your voice overs away for free to people who could pay for the service you provided but had chosen to take advantage of you instead.

Many beginner voice talent find themselves in a bit of a quandary. They can’t get an agent because they haven’t received any work, and they need an agent (or so some may think) in order to get the work in the first place!

It’s the age old question: What came first? The Chicken or the Egg?

I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that the chicken came first. If not, how would the egg have survived?

There are many dangers out there for aspiring talent just waiting to take advantage of them. When you think in terms of being the chicken as opposed to the egg, you are given a variety of choices and the ability to pick the best solution for you to carry you through the longterm when building a voice over career.

We often say and reiterate frequently that voice over is not an easy business or a cakewalk. It’s a business first of all and one that demands vocal talent as well as technical skills in order to succeed as a work from home or independent studio operation.

One of the best ways to gain experience in both the voice over and recording process (that is of no cost to you) is to volunteer and learn from others who can mentor you.

Here are some ideas to gain experience in specific voice over niches:

1. Narration and Audio Books

If you’d like to try your hand at recording for audio books or narration pieces, consider starting with some public domain material available at Project Gutenberg. This database contains tens of thousands of works that are in the public domain that you can practice with or record that are royalty-free and no cost to you to download.

Another resource available to you in this field is to join the community at I happen to have met the founder, Hugh McGuire, at PodCamp in Toronto.

Essentially, this is a community of people who are dedicated to producing audio books that are in the public domain. These audio books are accessible for people to download. The service acts as a creative outlet for many, community, and a means for amateur voice talent to record audio books and receive reviews from others on the website.

2. Children’s Books and Voice Acting

Volunteer at local libraries, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and so on. Oftentimes, these organizations are more than thrilled to accept your offer to volunteer and you have the opportunity to make a direct impact on individual people or a group of people.

This is also an excellent way to get comfortable with reading aloud and developing characters. Your audience will let you know how you are doing and you may find yourself feeding off of them, becoming a better storyteller and voice actor for it.

3. Character Voices and Animation Voice Overs

Join a small voice acting or theatre group that performs radio and or audio drama. There are several groups that you can be a part of online if you are looking for international communities and others that are locally based.

Elie Hirschman is a member of Darker Projects, a community of voice talent from around the world who produce audio dramas. Elie has mentioned this group before in his Biz segments on the VOX Talk podcast.

Dave Johnson runs a voice acting group in San Diego called the Amateur Voice Acting Group.

You can build a credit list through roles that you have performed and count it as voice acting experience.

4. PSAs and Commercials

To try your hand at this kind of work, you could volunteer at non profit organizations or charities. You could look at this volunteering as a form of community service or as a donation or gift.

A great example of some serious VO donating was shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck. Voice talent lent their voices in PSAs created for the American Red Cross to help spread the message and encourage financial donations to help facilitate rescue and rebuilding efforts.

5. Demonstrating Your Technical Skills in Your Voice Acting Portfolio

If you need to hone your technical recording and editing skills, see if you can arrange to be mentored for a brief time by a professional audio engineer or voice over professional who is a proficient audio engineer.

A few hours in their presence, watching, learning and applying what you’ve discovered, coupled with study in online forums or books will greatly help you to develop your audio editing skills. Internships or volunteering on a regular basis at actual recording facilities is also a good idea if you have the time and opportunity to do so.

Volunteering your time and talent, although still providing a service without charge, is quite different from giving your voice away for free.

When you volunteer, you do it on your own terms and for the good of others, receiving more than you gave in return. Referrals (or treasures) will be more likely to spring for you professionally from the seeds that you had sown when volunteering your time and talent.


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  • Brian in Charlotte
    May 3, 2007, 7:46 am

    Great points Stephanie: When I first started I volunteered my services to voice community outreaches, promos for one of America’s largest churches, for friends projects etc. This was a tremendous help to them and me…win-win.
    There are great causes like recording for the blind. One might even be able to find a volunteer opportunity doing spots for women’s shelters, college radio stations etc.

  • Cookie Colletti
    May 3, 2007, 9:44 am

    Another great one Steph!
    I myself volunteer at Insight for the Blind, recording talking books and periodicals for the Library of Congress.
    It’s a great environment to be around, I record and monitor others recording. The weekly trip is worth it because I get to meet mostly elderly and very elderly people who have done this their whole lives! What stories and tips and tricks they offer!
    There’s a bible verse in Philemon 1:6… essentially it says that in the sharing of ourselves, we are renewed. I have found that to be true over and over again.
    Have a great day!

  • David Bourgeois
    May 3, 2007, 11:29 am

    Great thoughts Stephanie!
    Elie is a great example of putting yourself out there in this respect and that’s great to hear being that Elie is a past client of ours here at Voice Coaches.
    Another thought for voice actors that compliments your idea is networking from within.
    Just a notch or two below major agency driven VO work lies the vast range of work that most voice actors will begin their careers with and the work that many will continue to do throughout their careers.
    In many cases, the individuals doing the casting or hiring in this range of work, tend to repeatedly use the same talent.
    In addition to training, I regularly hire voice actors for a broad range of projects, and I can tell you, I often tend to make the “easy” decision. In other words, instead of listening to demos, I go to someone who I have a pre-existing work relationship with.
    Voice Actors should not view this as a negative, but instead as an enormous potential advantage. If you understand going into this, that people like us tend to re-use the same talent, then your goal should be to become one of those people. Instead of focusing singularly on getting the “job”, put equal focus into cultivating long-term work relationships.
    In business (and voice acting is a business) you will find it is much easier to pursue continued work opportunities with existing clients compared to developing an initial work relationship.
    This is where Steph’s comments grabbed my attention. Every time you volunteer to do something or anytime you do a VO professionally for that matter, you have an opportunity to develop relationships, not only with the individual who offered you the job, but with anyone involved with the project. Use these opportunities not only as experience, but as a chance to market from within. The ability to build and nurture a network is one of the key differences between the talent who becomes truly successful compared to the once in a blue moon dabbler.
    Best Regards!
    David at Voice Coaches
    P.S. We have an audio interview with Elie Hirschman on our site under the “Hear” button. The interview is in the Voice Coaches Radio section. Enjoy!

  • Stephanie Ciccarelli
    May 3, 2007, 11:41 am

    Hi Brian, Cookie, and David:
    Thank you for sharing your comments and thoughts!
    I’m sure that others are finding your stories very encouraging and inspiring.
    Keep the comments rolling, this is a fun post 🙂
    Take care,
    P.S. If you have any opportunities to offer or would like to be a mentor, leave a comment so that we know you’re available to do so.

  • Elie Hirschman
    May 3, 2007, 1:31 pm

    Thanks for the comments, David!
    I hope I can help others get themselves out there as well. In my opinion, building confidence in yourself is the first major step needed, and practice (in whatever form) is a major confidence builder.
    Great post as always, Steph.

  • Jacob
    June 20, 2007, 12:12 am

    Without many words – It is simply great, thank you!

  • Gordon Rouston
    February 22, 2010, 7:12 am

    I am excited about this site and all the free information, but free is free and you still need to do the work. I am an author and speaker, God given talent and I lived the story I tell in my book and when I speak so that part is easy. However when I took voice lessons many years ago and found work for some reason I just droppped it and went on to other things. Then one day I found this site and the excitement welled up in me once again. It was suggested I do an ad for MP-3 on my book, then one thing led to another and my other tallen V/O came back. I am presently readng and getting organized to get started, know the work is out there because it was before if I pursued it. I have a Mac with GarageBand and downloaded Audacity, just learning the rudiments, will figure out, with the help of this site and tutorials how to accpmplish my first task, the MP-3 recording then move on. Ant suggestions and/or assistance would be greately appreciated.

  • Fernando Subirats
    October 6, 2010, 3:55 pm

    By far the best of all my introductory emails from! It acted as a great reminder that giving is receiving!

  • Stefanie
    January 18, 2011, 4:10 pm


  • Stephanie Ciccarelli
    January 18, 2011, 9:44 pm

    Hi Stefanie,
    Check out this link for more information on how to get started 🙂
    Best wishes,

  • David Thompson
    December 14, 2011, 10:38 am

    Good information. Thanks!

  • Pamela Tansey
    March 8, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Print worthy! Thanks !

  • Jose Rodriguez
    March 16, 2015, 8:47 pm

    Great Article.